Director – Trace Slobotkin
Cast – Justin Urich, Lisa Loeb, Thomas Haden Church, Rick Overton, George Murdock, Barbara Niven, Raymond O’Connor, Esther Scott
Release Year – 2004
Reviewed by John of the Dead
I remember seeing Serial Killing 101 numerous times over the years for sale in large bins of cheap movies, and I always wondered why the film had so much negative buzz despite a cool storyline and several prominent actors taking part in the piece. After finally giving this 2004 effort a watch I can say that Serial Killing 101 is a unique effort that gets a few things right, but sloppy direction and an obvious low budget kept this from anything better than a mediocre watch in the end.
Casey Noland(Justin Ulrich; Monster Man), a high school student on the brink of failure of not only his classes but life in general, takes a strong interest in becoming a serial killer but lacks the capacity to actually kill someone. With the help of a fellow outcast, a Gothic girl named Sasha(Lisa Loeb), Casey applies himself to the serial killing profession in hopes of attaining the media status of those before him. While Casey works on perfecting his newly found craft the town is under attack from an actual serial killer, leaving Casey the prime suspect.
Despite the serial-killer sub-genre being one of the oldest in horror, I find much joy in it due to my love for serial killers myself. I enjoyed this overall storyline because I had never seen a serial killer effort in which a young person aims at being a serial killer for his/her profession in life, so I found this idea to be a creative and engaging one. Casey is the usual troubled high school teen, fantasizing about killing his teachers when he envelopes himself into Marilyn Manson albums. The usage of Sofia was mostly positive despite her character also being cliche as hell, adding to the story by giving Casey an emotional outlet as well as a solid influence to attain the profession he wants so badly. We get several other positive characters thrown into the mix, with the most notable being Mr. Grimaldi(Thomas Haden Church; Spiderman 3, Sideways, Tales from the Crypt: Demon Knight) as the school’s gym teacher who constantly hounds Casey for being a screwup and throwing like a girl. I enjoyed the idea of a serial killer striking at the same time that Casey is learning his craft, which made for decent conflict when the town’s lead detective sets his sights on Casey as the killer due to some remarks he made during class. One element that surprised me in this flick was how funny it was at times. Casey will be sure to please fellow smartasses with his non-stop barrage of witty one-liners, and thankfully he was not the only character to provide comedy to the film as gym teacher Mr. Grimaldi gave me a few chuckles when he explains (in a constant yell) the extreme importance of gym class. My only balk against this storyline was that we were not given many kills for a film of this sub-genre, so those of you going in expecting to see some good killing action will be disappointed.
Writer Trace Slobotkin also served as this film’s director, and to his defense he did an OK job with what he had to work with. It is obvious that this is a near-amateur effort overall, and the low budget did nothing to help Slobotkin hide that. He gets mostly-positive results from his actors, who each provided their own quirk in this quirky experience. His execution of the few kill sequences that we get is good, and sadly those few scenes are the best his direction has to offer. I found his overall execution to be mostly unfavorable due to how silly it was at times, with choppy editing making the experience one that I could not take as seriously as I wanted to.
Overall, Serial Killing 101 was a letdown that I should have seen coming but instead gave a chance due to a few convincing marketing gimmicks, like the usage of Thomas Haden Church. The story never delivers and is quite bland overall, and Slobotkin’s direction suffers from amateur issues that never aided the story and kept things at a mediocre level.